In Hard Eight, Philip Baker Hall delivers a multi-layered performance as Sydney, an aging professional gambler who takes down-on-his-luck loser John (John C. Reilly) under his wing. John’s involvement with an equally wounded waitress (Gwyneth Paltrow) and a shady casino worker (Samuel L. Jackson) introduces a noir element into this compelling character study of a film.
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John of Fiction/AV/Teen Services recommends Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson:
Celine Dion’s music has millions of fans worldwide – so why do music critics hate it? One of those critics, Carl Wilson, set out to explore this disdain by examining Dion’s work from practically every imaginable musical and socio-cultural angle. What eventually emerges is a treatise on the very notion of “good taste,” delving into the ways in which we assign value to art can often be shaped by our unconscious prejudices. Let’s Talk About Love is likely to make you reexamine your own ideas about good and bad music.
For more than twenty years, Jim Woodring’s elegantly wordless “Frank” comics have immersed readers in a dreamlike, richly allegorical milieu which is equal parts unsettling and whimsical. 2010’s Weathercraft is Woodring’s first long-form work and possibly his best-realized. It follows one character’s ascension from total debasement into a kind of unexpected nobility.
Running from 1978 to 1980 on British TV, The Sandbaggers was essentially the antithesis of the James Bond movies. It replaced exotic locations and outlandish action sequences with a John le Carre-flavored down-to-earth emphasis on the political and emotional cost of espionage work, and was never less than totally absorbing.
Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever was Yorkshire garage-pop trio The Cribs’ major-label debut. For once a shot at a wider audience made for the perfection of the sound (in this case, anthemic hooks married to witty lyrics and fluid, twitchy guitar), rather than its watering down—proving there’s life still left in the Strokes/Maximo Park school.
Paranoia Agent was the late anime master Satoshi Kon’s sole foray into television; this enigmatic, visually arresting and borderline Lynchian series follows a disparate group of Tokyo residents whose lives are impacted by a string of mysterious assaults.
With their third album, Field Music (Measure), UK indie-rock outfit Field Music have definitively mutated beyond their conspicuous XTC influences, taking apart their compelling guitar-pop melodies and reassembling them into a magnetically complex double-disc, kaleidoscopic epic.
Phase IV was the celebrated graphic designer Saul Bass’ lone film as a director, a cerebral and visually assured science fiction exercise depicting an ordinary ant colony unnervingly transformed into a genuinely alien intelligence.
Confirmed cynic Orson Welles reportedly said of Make Way for Tomorrow, “It could make a stone cry”—and this bittersweet, sharply observed, utterly heartbreaking 1937 picture will almost certainly move you as well.
David Mazzucchelli‘s outstanding graphic novel Asterios Polyp isn’t notable just for its satisfying story – about an arrogant architect who learns to see the world in a new way – but for the way that story is told: elegant visual devices abound in this thematically rich work.